Earlier this morning, United Auto Workers president Ron Gettelfinger held a press conference in which he pointed the finger of blame back at Senate Republicans, particularly ones from Southern states in which many foreign-owned auto assembly plants are located, for the failed attempt last night to pass the Auto Rescue/Bailout Bill in the Senate. As we mentioned earlier, negotiations fell apart over the issue of wage parity, or what Senator Bob Corkey (R-Tenn.) called "competitive wages".

Gettelfinger claims the UAW was willing to make its wages and benefits competitive with those earned by non-union workers at transplant factories, but felt it must be done over time through the attrition of older, higher-paid workers and the hiring of new workers at a lower wage with less benefits. Despite this concession by the UAW, Senate Republicans demanded that wages and benefits be made competitive by what it calls an "arbitrary date", likely March 31, 2009.

It seems like a minor issue to stall such an important piece of legislation, which may lend credence to Gettelfinger's suspicion that the UAW was "set up" as a scapegoat by Senate Republicans who have it out for organized labor.
[Source: The Detroit Free Press, MSNBC, Photo by Bill Pugliano/Getty]


UAW Statement

"The UAW is deeply disappointed that Senate Republicans have blocked the bipartisan legislation that was agreed to by President Bush and congressional Democrats.

"In an effort to work out a compromise, the UAW was prepared to agree that any restructuring plan should ensure that the wages and benefits of workers at the domestic automakers should be competitive with those paid by the foreign transplants. But we also recognized that this would take time to work out and implement, using attrition programs to allow the companies to hire new workers at the lower wage and benefit rates. Unfortunately, Senate Republicans insisted that this had to be accomplished by an arbitrary deadline. This arbitrary requirement was not imposed on any other stakeholder groups. Thus, the UAW believed this was a blatant attempt to make workers shoulder the lion's share of the costs of any restructuring plan.

"The UAW has recognized from the beginning that all stakeholders will be required to make sacrifices to ensure the viability of the domestic auto companies. We were prepared to do our part. But we could not accept the GOP demands to treat workers differently from all other stakeholders, and to subject them to different requirements than other groups.

"Now that the legislation has been blocked by Senate Republicans, the UAW calls on Secretary Paulson to use his authority to provide TARP funds to provide emergency assistance to the domestic auto companies. The ball is squarely in his court. He has the power to prevent the imminent collapse of the companies, and the disastrous consequences that will follow for millions of retirees and workers and for the economy of our entire nation."